Walks Around Harlow
High Streets all over the U.K. have undergone dramatic changes during the past twenty years and Harlow's is no exception. Large national and multi-national corporations have taken over a large portion of the retail sector, squeezing out many of the smaller, locally-owned businesses that were always the backbone of High Street retailing. The unceasing efforts of the big corporations to increase the profitability of their operations has led inexorably to ever-larger stores, usually surrounded by acres of parking. Consequently most of the 'big box' or 'superstores' are located on the periphery of the towns or, even worse, miles away at a major highway interchange. In too many cases the desperate efforts of local planning officers to prevent the construction of such stores have been futile. The development of the Tesco store in Harlow's Edinburgh Way is an excellent example of such a story. There is no doubt that the new retail landscape is more convenient for those who shop by car, that prices are lower and the selection of goods better. But the inevitable result has been a steady erosion of the rich retail mix that characterized the High Street, and the increasing isolation of those, especially the elderly who either do not, or cannot shop at the peripheral superstores. The cultural landscape of Harlow, like so many other towns in England, has been seriously degraded by these trends.
It is difficult to realize how vibrant the commercial core of Harlow once was. As recently as 1990 people in Old Harlow could have purchased most of their daily necessities and many of their long-term ones as well in High or Market Street. In High Street alone there were 3 banks, 3 restaurants, 2 butchers, 2 greengrocers, 2 bakeries, 2 newsagents, a pharmacy, a hardware store, an optician, an undertaker, an off-licence, a fish-and-chips takeaway a public library and several estate agents. Some of these functions remain, but many have disappeared, too often replaced by the office of an estate agent - of which there are now one in Station Road, 2 in Market Street and 6 in High Street (where there were seven, until one closed in July 2011). Harlow Council has a policy of regulating the number of similar businesses in any particular area, but it is difficult to see how this has been applied to the Old Harlow Shopping Centre.
The following notes are intended to be more than a contemporary description of the townscape in the immediate vicinity of the Memorial University of Newfoundland Campus. They are probably more detailed than strictly necessary, but hopefully they will give you a sense of the interesting history of this small piece of England. That they will remind you that Harlow has been successfully adapting to the social and economic changes of the past 900 years.
I have been able to provide descriptions of only a few of the occupants of some of the buildings. The list is far from complete. But it has not been possible to identify every individual trader, or map the locations in which they lived or worked. From archival and anecdotal material I know the names of many butchers, confectioners, saddlers and harness makers, bootmakers, stationers, builders and jobbers, outfitters, drapers, corn merchants and provisioners who traded in this small area of Harlow, but from locations that I have not been able to identify. Despite the incomplete record, my hope is that anybody who reads these notes and then goes for a walk along High, Market or Fore Street will remember that the current traders in the various shops are just the most recent in a long line of craftsmen, merchants and entrepreneurs, all of whom have made a contribution to the development of the town.
The notes are based on a number of sources. These include the 1875, 1921 and 1947 Ordnance Survey maps, the Kelly Directory of Essex, a description of Harlow in 1938 which can be found in the archives section of the Museum of Harlow, and a series of maps dating from the 1950s and 1960s prior to the redevelopment of the High Street by Sir Frederick Gibberd. The historic photographic images are reprinted with the permission of the Museum of Harlow.
1. 'Listed' Buildings, i.e. those considered by English Heritage to be of particular architectural and/or historic merit are identified by an asterisk (*).
2. The text was originally written in the spring of 2004, and then extensively revised between November 2010 and July 2011. However, readers should be aware of the fact that some of the descriptions will now be out-of-date. If you note errors or omissions please contact Chris Sharpe at email@example.com.
3. Station and London Roads run almost due north/south. High and Market Streets run east/west. All four meet at what was historically known as The George Corner.
2 High Street*: An early 18th century facade on an older house. It was the 1805 birthplace of Sarah Flower Adams, author of the hymn 'Nearer my God to Thee', reputedly the last piece of music played by the band of the R.M.S. Titanic. She is buried in the Non-Conformist cemetery in Foster Street. The house has a splendid Georgian door under an open pediment with Doric half columns.
4 High Street*: Belvoir Lettings estate agents (since 2001). Former occupants: of this early 18th century shop were Bairstow Eve Estate Agents, Sheila's General Store, Meilias Sweet Shop, Meadows confectionary, Caton's "High-Class Grocers and Provision Merchants" and the "OSO Fragrant" Tea Stores and Cafe Ltd.
6* High Street*: Giuiletta and Romeo Hairdressers (since 1974) An early 18th century building with a carefully preserved original shop fron on the west end of the building. Previous occupants were : G.E. Read , Practical Wireless Engineer ("All makes supplied. Repairs a specialty. Accumulators Charged") and Arderne's Gentleman's Outfitters and Fred Scatley's Gent's Outfitter and Boot Mercer, "Bespoke Tailoring A Speciality" from 1920. In the late 1960's Scatley's was re-branded and transformed into "Blue Meaning".
8 High Street*: J and L Nailbar. Originally a blacksmith shop. The two pollarded trees at its east end were in the smith's yard. Previous occupants include Vincenzo's Hairdressers, Beard's Gentleman's Hairdressers and F.W. Dearlove, outfitter,
Walford's Close. This is the walkway to the carpark and was the source of some controversy during the rehabilitation project. It was a cobbled passage, described by the architects as "one of the most attractive features of the High Street" and the original intention was to retain the cobbles. However, the rough surface was deemed a danger to pedestrians, and it was repaved. Some cobblestones have been retained in the narrowest section near the High Street as have the irregular line of the passage, and until 2010, when they were felled, the original trees.
10 High Street. Fine, A new locally-owned off-licence, tobacconist and delicatessan, which opened in June, 2011. The shop was vacant from 1999 to 2005 when Fur 'n Feathers pet shop began trading here, and then again from 2008 to 2011. The previous occupant was Traidcraft which sold gifts and crafts from around the world. For many years before that it was occupied by Relph and Williams, Chemist and Optician, and in August, 1980 became the first High Street location of Ramco Pharmacy, which relocated to number 40 High Street in 1993.
12 High Street: Dorrington's Bakery. An 18th century cottage which retains its original double-range, clay peg-tiled roof and a traditional shop front, Stutely the barber operated here between 1910 and 1920 followed by a butcher. Dorrington's Bakery has occupied the shop with its meticulously restored shop front since 1925 .
18-22 High Street: The block of shops, with flats above, was built during the rehabilitation and pedestrianization of High Street in the mid-1960s, replacing a building destroyed by fire. The old buildings were occupied by Dines ("The Blue Bird Cycle Stores, Agents for all makes of bicycles. Pye, Marconi and Murphy Radio, Battery Charging on Approved Plant") and then Kenville Jackson, which sold radios, records and televisions; Markham's tobacconist and confectioner, and Muffett's fresh fish shop which later moved across the street.
The occupants of the 'new' shops are:
18 High Street. Joe Jennings Bookmakers since 2001. Cramphorn's Garden Shop was the original occupant, followed by the Harlow Garden Store.
20 High Street. Co-Op Funeral parlour. Previously the Co-Operative grocery store subsequent to its move from Station Road.
22 High Street. Loveday's Opticians has occupied the shop since 1975. It was previously a hairdresser.
30 High Street*: Old Harlow Branch of the Essex County Library. A 17th century cottage hidden behind an 18th century facade. The Library has been here since 1970. Prior to this it was Read's tobacconist and confectioner. When the building was converted for use as a library the children's section was placed in the old cottage at the front, to maximize the amount of natural light. The adult section is located in the one-storey brick extension to the rear. This extension was built in the former Bluebird (or Pratt's) Yard where there had been a carpenter's workshop - shown on the 1958 map. The entrance to the yard was on the west side of the cottage.
32 High Street*: The New Crystal Palace. A 17th century timber-framed cottage. This the former location of Chattel's, stationer and picture framer. The original shape of the bay-fronted cottage with its recessed front entrance has been preserved,
34 High Street*: A 17th century range with an 18th century facade. This building with its semi-hexagonal two-storey bays housed an Off Licence since the beginning of the last century. In the years prior to the First War a Mr. Walsh,lived in the cottage on the west side and ran the Ind Coope Brewery off-licence outlet in the east bay. Victoria Wine then occupied the building for many years but closed in 2010, no doubt because of the competition from Tesco and other supermarkets. In 2011 the shop was converted to a chicken and kebab take-away.
36 High Street*: Creative Designs - The House of Flowers, "Commisioned for the Princess of Thailand", according to its sign. Previously Lane's Audiovisuals. This shop occupies the eastern bay of the building which also houses number 34.
50 - 54 High Street: Another one of the new blocks of shops with flats above added to the High Street in the 1970s, to the designs of Sir Frederick Gibberd. Several shops and two cottages were demolished to make way for the new development.
Previous occupants of the site included:
Samuel Deard's shop. William and Samuel Deards, painters, glaziers and gas fitters, operated a business in High Street between 1874 and 1882. After 1874 Samuel Deards (born 1842) was listed as an 'inventor'. The impressive semi-circular glass roof over the eastern bay was undoubtedly erected using the 'dry glazing' method of roofing large buildings which Deard invented. When Deard moved his manufacturing premises to The Broadway the glazed roof was replaced by a simple peaked roof and the building was taken over by:
Harry Coleman & Co. The Coleman family ran a number of successful businesses in Harlow for a long time. Two brothers had a falling out, apparently around the turn of the 19th century, and William set up his son Harry in competition with his brother John. Kelly's Directory tells us that in High Street you had William, a coal merchant, from 1874 to 1882 and Harry Coleman"Furnishing and General Ironmongers, Whitesmiths and General Smiths, Locksmiths, Plumbers, Gas and Water Fitters, Cycle Makers and Agents, Agricultural and Horticultural Engineers, Electric and Crank Bellhangers, Builder's Ironwork and Iron and Wire Fencing. Estimates Free" between 1908 and 1933 - by which time 'sanitary engineer' had been added to the list of specialist trades. Meanwhile John Coleman, general smith, traded out of permises in Back Street between 1878 and 1908.
Martin's Bakery. Steve Martin ran a bakery here from about 1905 to 1933 when he moved into the former Seeley's premises in Fore Street. Martin also sold yeast to those who wanted to make their own bread, and he would bake customer's bread late in the day for ½ d. Note the sign in his window: "Cyclists Rest. Teas Supplied".
After being vacated by Martin the building was divided into three shops.
The three shops have since been occupied by:
50 High Street: The Raj Lodge Indian restaurant. Previously occupied by Cramphorn's, seed merchants who took over from Gould's seed merchants, the successors to the Carter seed agency run by Miss Thurgood, who became Steve Martin's second wife.
52 High Street: Bairstow Eve Estate Agents. The original occupant was Martin's sweet shop and tobacconist, followed by Ramco Chemists. Mr Patel, the chemist, traded here from 1993 to 2001 when he moved his business into much larger premises across the street. Before him it was Dane's Cleaners, which had taken over from Blakeley's "General Draper, Milliner, Costumier, Boots and Shoes; Agents for Achille Serre Ltd., Dyers and Cleaners".
54 High Street: The Newsrak. This shop has housed a newsagents, confectioners and tobacconist for many years. The Newsrak follows in the footsteps of S & N Stationers, who took over from The Bookstack. A previous occupant was Beard's Ladies Hairdressers, whose address, "No. 1, Old Bakery, High Street", recalled the earlier occupant. His advertisements urged ladies to "Let Beards redesign your hair. Permanent waving by skilled artists. A visit to their exclusive salon will delight you". Beard later moved his hairdressing and tobacconist busines to 12 New Road where the building, which has been derelict for more than twenty years, still bears his sign.
Beyond the end of the pedestrianized section of High Street are the two 'pavilions' containing 3-storey, 3 bedroom houses that Freddie Gibberd designed to act as a distinctive closing point of (or depending on your direction of travel, the entrance to) the shopping precinct are:
The Wayre*: A mid-18th century house that was a V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) hospital during the First War. It now serves as the Harlow Council day centre for the occupants of the 12 elderly persons bungalows in its grounds.
Marigolds*: An early 19th century facade on a late 17th / early 18th century house. The front door and case are possibly original.
1 High Street (Gothic House). Howick and Brooker's Estate Agents (since 1978) and Gothic Insurance Brokers. By 1920 the Post Office had moved here from its previous location at 7 - 9 High Street (see the 1875 Ordnance Survey map). Between 1800 and 1944 the Post Office was run by the Whittaker family (John, David, Charles, and then their relative John Carmichael). Over the years they provided a number of different services, trading as milliners, drapers, stationers and booksellers. They also ran the Post Office from 1800 to 1944.
By the mid 1950s this building housed Welford's, confectioner, tobacconist and stationer, specializing in greeting cards. The first floor contained the dental surgery of Miss Sarson, and the top floor Nora's Ladies Hairdressers. It was then occupied briefly by Mick's Rod and Tackle, owned by a man who won £90,000 on the pools, and then by Miller's Estate Agents. The Herts and Essex Advertiser and then Harlow Press (General Printers and Bookbinders) and Harlow Gazette were located in the small extension on the east side of the building, followed by the West Essex Photo Studios.
3 High Street. Genesis Financial Services. The previous tenant was 'Guys 'n Dolls' hairdressers, but prior to that it was occupied for more than 20 years by Anderson's Bakery which closed on 5 June, 2004. Previous occupants were Sketchley's Dry Cleaners, which bought out the Achille Serre business, (formerly at 52 High Street until it relocated here); Ashwell Jewellers and Akeley's Drapers.
7 - 9 High Street: Café Blue. This was formerly two properties. Number 7 was occupied by Lea's Drapery Shop (from 1955 to 1964 at least) and number 9 by Arthur Geer, "Newsagents, Booksellers, Stationers and Tobacconists, Toy and Fancy Goods Dealer". Geer had worked in London at the head office of Mudie's Library, and operated a branch of that library here. It wasn't the first library in the premises: the 1936 photo shows that it was a branch of 'The Argos Circulating Library'. The shop was subsequently taken over by Thomas Marshall who was a printer and bookbinder and also operated a lending library, then by Wilce Taylor, newspaper and magazine distributor and finally by Martin's Newsagents and Tobacconists which ceased trading around 2001.
11 High Street: Sue Ryder Care Shop. Formerly part of 'The Library'.
13 High Street. Tasty Fish Bar. Former home of a series of butchers: the London Central Meat Company; Baxter's; and finally Dewhursts, who closed in 1996. Old Harlow has not had a specialist butcher since.
19 High Street: The Bengal Cottage Restaurant. Formerly the PennyFarthing Restaurant, and before that J.S. Moule, Florist and High Class Greengrocer". It w as converted to a restaurant in 1971 behind a striking new facade, regrettably now removed, designed by John Graham.
25 High Street: Co-Op Supermaket. This has been a grocery store for a long time. It was run by Somerfield until they were purchased by the Co-Op Group in 2009. In the 1970s and 1980s it was a Gateway franchise and in the 1960s was run by the International Tea Company. Many high streets throughout the UK were served by a Somerfield store, and now the Co-Op, and these companies are to be commended for maintaining a high street presence in the face of stiff competition from the larger 'superstores'. The Co-Op Group has its roots in the North of England Co-Operative Society which was formed in 1863. During the corporate restructuring and re-branding which took place in 2009, the Co-Op had an unusually long 2 1/2 minute advertisement which aired for the first time during an episode of Coronation Street. The company was permitted to use part of Bob Dylan's Blowing In The Wind during the advertisement - one of the very rare occasions on which the songwriter has allowed one of his compositions to be used for commercial purposes.
29 High Street. The Cutting Edge. Formerly Marquis Sports, Franco's Hair Salon, Dean's wet and fried fish shop, and in the 1930s, the office of Wright Brothers, "Motor Jobmasters". Marquis Sports shop was run by Glenn Hoddle, who grew up in Harlow and went on to a successful in professional football. He appeared in 377 games for Tottenham Hotspur (1975-87), 69 for AS Milan (1987-91), 64 for Swindon Town (1991-93) and 31 for Chelsea (1993-95). Between 1979 and 1988 he made 53 appearances with the English National Team. and was its manager for two years, from 1996 to 1998.
37 High Street. Masters and Watkins Estate Agents: This office closed in July, 2011, having recently moved here from its previous premises in The George (which are still vacant at the time of writing.) They were preceded by Dannielle's Beauty, Flickers video rental shop, an antique shop, a delicatessen and (as recently as 1974) H. Muffett, purveyor of fish, poultry and game, who had previously traded out of a shop on the other side of High Street. He later moved to the premises in Garden Terrace Road now occupied by Marina Fish Bar.
39 High Street: InterCounty Lettings. Pevious occupants were Curnew and Davies Estate Agents; Harris, Cuffaro and Nichols Solicitors from the 1980s to 2004, before their relocation to Black Lion Yard off Market Street; the Midland Bank; Parnhams furniture store and Selmes Family Butchers. The Selmes family were long-time Harlow residents, and were always butchers. They, and a family called Holmes, which has lived in the area since the 1640s, have been intertwined since the 1880s when two Holmes girls married two Selmes brothers. One of the Selmes sons became one of the many First War casualties with no known grave. His name is inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing at Arras, and there is also a headstone in his memory in the Harlow cemetery. Selmes Family Butchers is listed as occupant in all of the Kelly's Directories in the Museum of Harlow, from the first one 1874 to 1933 the, and the family continued providing butcher service to the town until at least the early 1960's (see the top right photo below).
41- 47 High Street: Between the passageway to the medical clinic and the bottom of the retail precinct at the intersection where Garden Terrace and Wayre Road connect with High Street are two more of the 1960s vintage blocks: one of shops with flats above, and one just containing flats. The demolished shops housed Colman's showroom, Green's grocery, three cottages and then, on the corner, Tate's Store. Tate's sold just about everything, from groceries and sweets to paraffin and petrol and bicycles and batteries.
The current occupants of the block are:
41 High Street. Old Harlow Dental Practice. Until 2003 this was the home of Wasson's Fruiters and Greengrocers, the original occupant of the shop built by the Harlow Development Corporation in 1970. Old Harlow has been without the services of a specialist greengrocer since it closed.
43 - 45 High Street. Ramco Pharmacy. Previous occupants: Jacks Hardware (#43), and Howse's Butchers (#45). The two premises were consolidated in 2001 by Ramco Chemists when this familiar High Street shop moved from #52 across the street. Mr. Patel, the pharmacist, and his brother have been commuting daily from North London to their premises in Harlow's High Street since they first began trading out of #10 in 1980.
47 High Street. Geoffrey Matthews Estate Agents. This was previously a Lloyd's Bank branch after they moved down from Station Road. They closed this High Street branch in 1997 and consolidated their operations in the two branches they now maintain in the Town Centre.
71 High Street*: Chestnut Cottage. As recently as 1970, four old thatched cottages survived down High Street east of what is now Garden Terrace Road but only this one survives. The exterior of the cottage is probably 18th century, but the frame may be earlier. The tree which gave the cottage its name was felled in 1925. The other cottages were demolished to make room for the cottages of Rosemary Close, and the War Memorial Gardens. Rosemany Close was one of the first sheltered housing schemes built by the Harlow Urban District Council, and was built in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
West of Chestnut Cottage was Wright's Garage and Cottages. Wright's advertised 'Open or closed cars for hire, day or night'. Chris Earle, the first coach driver for the English Cultural Landscape Programme in 1986 later lived here. The two western cottages are called 'Coachman's Cottage' and Earle's Cottage.
Then comes Roc Hair and Beauty. Formerly Streaks Ahead, Bardot's Beauty Box and Church's Corn Merchants.
High Street then curves eastward past the top of New Road where James Cowlin, builder and decorator, had his yard from the 1880s to the 1920s, followed by J. Newton and Sons, 'builders and building material merchants. It continues around Ash Villa (home of W.G. Deards, son of the famous Sam), the Methodist Church (1886) and at Mulberry Green the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (1950). The land for this church was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Newman Gilbey. On the outside of the curve are the Fire Engine House, built by John Perry-Watlington of Moor Hall in 1870, and the 1931 St. John Ambulance garage, built in memory of Dr. Charles Chalk who lived in what is now Mulberry Green House (see below). Funds for the building and maintenance of the ambulance station were raised at an annual August Carnival which was held from 1929 to 1939. Past the Green Man public house is the 16th century Old Forge, now the office of Strettons Chartered Surveyors. Next is the large building occupied by Gies, Wallis, Crisp Accountants, but formerly the premises of Samuel Young', grocer, draper, milliner and gentleman's outfitter. This was probably the largest shop in Harlow.
East of this range of buildings is the late 18th century Mulberry Green House, a Grade II* listed building. This provides an interesting and informative example of how heritage conservation works in England. Originally occupied by doctors Day and then Newcombe, it had no name or number until 1947 when the Harlow Development Corporation gave it one. An arsonist set fire to it in April, 2000 and the building was gutted. The ruins remained untouched until 2007 while several redevelopment proposals were considered. A condition of the planning consent was that the building be "restored to its condition as first listed". In a strict sense this was impossible - the building could not be 'restored. But it has been rebuilt and now incorporates seven apartments. Ten houses (with 4 to 6 bedrooms each) have been built in the open ground behind the 'restored' house - in a yard last used in the 1990s by Harlow Council as their paper recycling facility. With some exaggeration the development as advertized by the developers as "Late 18th century with 19th century additions" . At the time of writing a 125 year lease on a 2 bedroom flat in the house is on the market for £295,000. A further £1,000 per year will be charged for ground rent and maintenance. The houses in the development are valued at more than £750,000.
At the corner of Mulberry Green and Gilden Way is the old police station, built by John Perry-Watlington for the town in 1852. A new police station was built in London Road in 1908, and this building converted to residential use.
Gilden Way cuts off High Street at the site of Harlow ford, which was bridged in 1904 by the Essex County Council. The Sheering Road and Churchgate Street continue on the far side of Gilden Way.
13 - 15 Sheering Road*. In his will, dated 1639, Francis Reeve of Hubbard Hall gave £100 in trust to buy land and build almshouses for four poor widows. The houses weren't built until 1716 when land was bought in Sheering Road and four almshouses built by the vicar and sold to the church trustees. The inscription inn front of a flind central dormer with a gable reads "Thefe houfef were builded for ye habitation of fower poore widdowes with monies left by ye will of Mr. Francis Reeve formerly of Huberts Hall". The original four units were consolidated into two in 1957 and rebuilt in 1974.
Millhurst*. A late 18th/early 19th century house, formerly owned by Field Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., K.C.B., G.C.M.G. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in action at Sindwaho, on 19 October, 1858, during the Indian Mutiny. He was 22 years old at the time. He died in the house in 1919. It was later the home of Mrs. D.J. Drake, a relative of Sir Francis Drake. 'Drake's Meadow', the adjoining estate of 4 large houses, was built in 1996 on land that previously formed part of the garden of Millhurst, and the development proposal was unsuccessfully opposed by Harlow Town Council and local residents.
|Table of Contents|
|Harlow's History and Geography|
|Introduction & The Origins of Harlow||The Structure of Harlow||Industry|
|Second World War Airfields|
|Walks Around Harlow|
|Market Street & St. John's Walk||Fore Street, Park Hill, London & Station Roads||High Street|
|Harlow New Town|
|The Origins of the New Town Programme||Important Developments in Harlow New Town|
|References & Acknowledgements|